According to Experian, credit card fraud happens when someone uses a credit card to make a purchase they don’t expect to pay back. When someone uses your card without your permission, it’s fraud. While, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability if your credit cards get used fraudulently to just $50, credit card fraud can still be unpleasant and inconvenient. Fortunately, there are steps each of us can take to minimize our risk and keep our information protected.
Criminals don’t have to resort to high-tech measures to steal your credit card number. A dishonest waiter can make a copy of your card while running your tab at a restaurant or bar. When you use your card in public, consider shielding it with your hand so that someone can’t read the numbers off of it from behind you. Additionally, when you card is out of your possession, be mindful of how long it’s away from you, keeping it within sight, if possible. When you have receipts or statements with your account number on them, consider shredding or otherwise destroying them so that your information remains safe as well.
Shopping online might keep your credit card physically safe, but it may expose your card information to additional risks from other types of predators. One way to protect yourself is to only enter personal financial information on secure sites that show a lock at the bottom of the screen or in the browser’s address bar. The Federal Trade Commission also recommends entering the address of the business you want to visit instead of clicking through a link that comes via email. That way, you know where you’re going. These tips don’t only work for shopping. They’re also good ideas for when you’re doing other financial tasks like looking at your bank account or even checking your credit report online.
Watching Your Statements
One of the best ways to protect yourself from being harmed by credit card fraud is to keep a watchful eye on your accounts. Carefully reviewing your statements when they arrive won’t stop a fraudster that has already used your card, but it will ensure that you catch the fraud relatively quickly. Then you can inform your credit card company, stop the fraud, and limit your liability. Hopefully you’re already vigilant in reviewing your statements, but this is another great reason to keep your banking behaviors consistent—especially during high-volume periods of credit card activity.
Checking Your Credit Report
If a criminal steals your identity and uses it to open new credit card accounts, you might not see it at all on your statements. To catch this type of fraud, you’ll need to check your credit reports periodically. When you read through each report, don’t only look for accounts that you don’t recognize, though. Experian recommends also looking for unfamiliar addresses to see if someone is sending the bills to their home instead of yours, and also looking at inquiries to see if someone else has applied for credit, even if they didn’t receive it.
When you’re savvy to the ways that shoulder surfers, fraudsters and other identity thieves can scoop your card information—and how to check your records for suspicious information—you can help keep your information and assets protected. Your financial information is worth protecting, make sure you consider all the ways to keep it secure and private.
About the Author
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.